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Hazel, Lanoy Nelson

Published onAug 06, 2021
Hazel, Lanoy Nelson

(April 23, 1911– October 14, 1992)

Quick Facts

Professor of Animal Science from 1947-1973, Lanoy Hazel developed the backfat meat probe and central swine testing stations.

In 1964, in a series on the effect of science, the farm magazine Furrow featured Hazel's picture (a reproduction accompanies this biography) on the cover with the caption, "Dr. L. N. Hazel behind the big change in livestock.. . . ." In the cover article, Ralph Reynolds stated "Hazel is an animal scientist who deals in deep and complicated theory. Many of his research projects are sheer exercises in higher mathematics. Yet his thinking is behind such livestock boons as performance testing of beef and hogs, and the highly successful swine-testing stations. . . . As a scientist, Hazel is energetic and impatient. Ideas are an irritations until he finds a way to make them useful." Source:

Lanoy Nelson Hazel was born in the small Texas community of Shannon on April 23, 1911. His family moved near another small town on the south plains of Texas, Spur, where he grew up and attended school. He became actively interested in livestock from observations and part-time work at the SMS ranch nearby. 

Hazel pioneered in the field of on-the-farm techniques to be used to breed leaner and faster-growing meat animals. He received a bachelor’s from Texas Technical College, master’s from Texas A&M, and his doctorate from Iowa State College (now University) in 1941 where he was influenced by W. G. Cochran and G. W. Snedecor of the Statistical Laboratory. 

Hazel had been attracted to Iowa when he read Iowa State College professor Jay L. Lush’s 1937 book Animal Breeding Plans. Hazel began a close relationship with Lush and together both changed the practices of animal breeding and the scientific methodologies supporting breeding research.

Hazel’s thesis introduced the concept of genetic correlations and how to estimate them as a means of selecting breeding animals for several traits at one time. Hazel researched swine, sheep and poultry and developed on-farm performance recording in swine herds. In the 1950s when there was interest in developing a “meat type” hog, Hazel developed the backfat meat probe and central swine testing stations.

The probe could measure the fat thickness of a live hog through a small incision in the hog’s hide. It couldn’t penetrate muscle, providing a quick, almost painless and accurate measurement of the body fat layer. Previously the only way to estimate that information was by slaughtering a litter-mate.

Test stations began near the ISU campus. Breeders submitted several animals of all breeds for growth testing. Hogs were housed in pens and fed a common ration. At the end of the feeding period, all animals were rated, and indexes for all hogs were announced prior to a public auction where buyers could bid based on performance-testing information made available. Iowa eventually had seven stations. At the same time, the first beef bull testing station was build near the Ames campus.

Hazel was also involved in research on irradiation impacts on hogs and offspring. If confirmed the belief that nay genetic damage would go undetected in the first generation of progeny.

Perhaps Hazel’s greatest contribution came in the classroom. Iowa State graduated 279 graduates in masters or doctorates in animal breeding under his and Lush’s tenure. In his five last years at ISU, Hazel headed the Animal Science Department.

He was the first recipient of the Animal Breeding and Genetics Award in 1962, among others.

During his graduate work he met a young editorial assistant for the Bulletin Editorial office at Iowa State College. She was Frances E. (Fran) Peterson, who had a journalism degree from South Dakota State College. After a 2-mo whirlwind courtship, they were married in Arlington, SD on February 17, 1940.

In August 1973 he retired at the age of 62 to spend more time with Fran and his family, then including grandchildren. He and Fran moved to Mountain Home, AR, into a home on a ridge near Norfork Lake surrounded by trees. They entertained in a family room with picture windows overlooking a spectacular view. One hundred acres and a small herd of cattle (crossbred, of course), boating, fishing, canoeing, entertaining family and grandchildren, square dancing and much bridge playing fully occupied their time. These things he did with the same enthusiasm and enjoyment that he put into his professional career. This retirement life continued for over 19 years.

In 1982 he was awarded the Distinguished Agriculture Alumnus Award from his first alma mater, Texas Tech University.

On October 14, 1992, Lanoy Hazel passed away after a period of illness with emphysema.

Selections of text republished with permission from Iowans who made a difference: 150 years of agricultural progress by Don Muhm and Virginia Wadsley, published by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, 1996.

Selected Sources

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